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Optics Review: Yukon Rambler and Minox Snowhunter
Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Optics Review: Yukon Rambler and Minox Snowhunter

This past season we field tested two types of binoculars with two very different price points but each with a set of features that will appeal to a variety of hunters and outdoor activities.

Rambler Binoculars by Yukon Optics

yukon-binocs

The 8 X 32 Ramblers are one of Yukon’s more compact models of binoculars.  They’re small enough to stash in your pack or pocket without taking up much room.  One of the things we’ve noticed with compact binoculars of this size is that the light transmission can be limited resulting in poor representation and a dimmer image.  The Ramblers however, have what Yukon calls “Broadband Technology” which remedies that problem.  We found them to perform exceptionally well for such a compact pair of binoculars. 

Specs on the Rambler
 
Lens diameter, mm 25
Magnification, x 8
Eye relief, mm 15.5
Exit pupil diameter, mm 3.1
Real angle of view, degrees 6.8°
Field of view at 1000 yard distance, yard 130
Focus range, yard 1.5 to inf.
Twilight factor 14
Diopter adjustment, dptr ± 4
 Operating temperature,˚F -22˚ to +105˚
Dimensions, in 3.9” x 4.1” x 1.4”
Weight (w/out packaging), oz 10.2
 

Features:
The Ramblers feature a rubber coating that protects them from drops and the wear and tear of life in your pack.  They have a large ribbed focus wheel that is super easy to zero in quickly.  Quick story: Dan and I were making our usual rounds this summer, trimming lanes, checking stands etc. when we saw a deer out in the brush lot approximately 300 + yards away.  I had the Ramblers around my neck and I quick threw them up to check this deer out.  The deer was actually headed into the tree line just as the dual-twist eyecups were getting to my eyes.  I quickly feathered the focus wheel to see a nice rack on this deer that went at least 3 or 4 inches out past the ears.  Needless to say, that pumped us up! 
The Rambler also has an exceptionally wide field of view and long eye relief for such a slim design.  The main attribute that we look for in a pair of quality binoculars is the ability to throw them up to your face and zero in quickly on a crystal clear image.  The Ramblers give this to you in a slim, compact package. 

Our Marks on the Rambler Binoculars by Yukon Optics:

Performance: 5 out of 5: Not only do they provide a clear image quickly, they do it in a compact design allowing you to slip these into a pocket or pack without added bulk.

Features: 5 out of 5: We like the rubber coating and the strap was long enough to wear in a variety of different positions around your neck/shoulders. 

Overall Value: 5 out of 5: At a price tag of around $80, the Ramblers get a big thumbs up for the quality and compact design. 

Snowhunter Binoculars by Minox

mnx_bv10x42_sh_pr01_mr3-minox-binos

Minox is a german company known for their miniature cameras (like you see in Spy movies) but their pursuit for quality, reliability and durability has transcended into other offerings like Binoculars.  The Snowhunter Binoculars are part of Minox’s BV or “Value Line” and are made specifically for extreme conditions and temperature ranges.  They have a hardened aluminum body that is compliant with the DIN ISO 10109-4 standard and contain internal lubricants designed for temperatures ranging from -22 to 140 degrees Farenheit.  A shockproof rubber coating covers key points on the Binoculars to protect the precision optics and provide a non-slip grip.  On top of all this, a sealing technology is used to protect against the penetration of dust and water, while the internal Nitrogen gas prevents fogging and corrosion in extreme temperature fluctuations.  Simply put, these binoculars can be used in the heat of summer and the extreme cold of winter without missing a beat.   The Snowhunters come in two power choices; 8 x 42 (the ones we tested) and 10 x 42.

Here are the Specs on the Snowhunter Binocs:
· Magnification:8x / 10x
· Front lens diameter:42 mm / 1.65 inch
· Exit pupil:5.25mm, 0.21 in / 4.2 mm, 0.165 in
· Field of view:BV 8×42 BR:389 ft, 7,4 ° at 1.000 yds / 129 m, 7,4° at 1.000m
BV 10×42 BR:342 ft, 6,5 ° at 1.000 yds /113 m, 6,5 ° at 1.000 m
· Eye relief:0.71 inch, 18 mm / 0.60 inch, 15 mm
· Close distance:1.2 m / 3.94 ft
· Diopter adjustment:-4 up to +8 dpt
· Geom.  twilight number:27.6 / 17.6
· Operating temperature:-30° up to +60° C
-22° up to 140° F
· Waterproof:down to 3m / 9.85 ft
· Height, Width, Depth:140 x 127 x 51 mm
5.5 x 5.0 x 2.0 in
· Weight, approx: ca. 780 g / 27.5 oz

Practical Applications: If you’re like us, we look at those technical specifications and say “Great, but let me take a look through them!”  These binoculars, like most “quality” optics, have that instant clarity you’re looking for.  You know what kind of optics you’re using right away with such a clear image.  The Snowhunters by Minox have that clarity and you immediately realize that these are high quality optics.  The Realtree Hardwoods Snow camouflage pattern on these binoculars look sweet and we could not find one flaw on the finish of these. 
We could talk about “Multicoated lenses” and “Roof Prisms” but we’ll spare you the technical jargon.  We can tell you that these binoculars have very little glare and work phenomenal in low light.  We brought these to one of our observatory stands during bow season and spent the evening “glassing” the landscape.  We saw a few deer but as soon as camera light faded, as is often the case, the field was invaded with dark brown shapes.  We used the Snowhunter binoculars to check out each deer and they performed exceptionally well in this low light situation. 
Price Point: At a cost of around $319, these binoculars seem like a great buy if you’re looking for high quality and long life span in optics.  The optical quality is above this price point and the construction appears to be able to withstand years of heavy use in the field.  We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these for your next hunt! 

Our Marks on the Snow Hunter Binoculars by Minox:

Performance: 5 out of 5: If you’ve ever had the pleasure of trying out a quality pair of optics, you know the difference between “cheap” and “quality”.  The Snow Hunter Binoculars are definitely a quality piece of optics.

Features: 4.5 out of 5: The Snow Hunters not only provide an excellent clarity and color experience, but they do it in a variety of weather and temperature conditions.  Our only deduction comes with the length of the strap.  We like to wear our Binocs over our head and one shoulder.  The strap on the Snow Hunters was a little short for this position.  We should get a little longer strap for $300 and change.

Overall Value: 5 out of 5: A price tag of around $319 seems like a great buy to us for such a quality pair of optics.  It’s really all about your individual price range when considering optics.

Well, there you have it.  Two quality binoculars depending on how much you want to spend.  The Ramblers offer a more affordable approach and are extremely compact while the Snowhunters are more pricey but offer a host of features in the next range.  After our testing, we don’t see how you can go wrong with either choice!

Retro Knit Camo Sweater
Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Retro Knit Camo Sweater

sweater

In today’s hunting market, everything from bows to boots to apparel seem to be more technologically advanced than in year’s past.  There are a few items, however from “Back in the Day” that worked extremely well and drew admiration from hunters across the country.  Unfortunately, many of those items are out of production now.  Not to fear!   Legendary Whitetails has brought back the beloved Winona Sweater.  Styled after the original made famous by Bob Fratzke and the Winona Knit Company, this Zip-up Sweater is priced right and will have you reminiscing about hunting days gone by.  I have the original version of this sweater hanging in my closet right now.  It doesn’t fit me anymore because…..well….let’s just say that I outgrew it!  It was and continues to be one of my favorite pieces of hunting garb and I just can’t bring myself to let it go.  When I saw that Legendary Whitetails had brought this style sweater back, I jumped at the chance to review it. 

The Sweater comes in two camo patterns (snow and brown) and features a high collar for added warmth and style.  The waist pockets are handy but our suggestion would be to throw zippers on them for next year.  Available sizes are: M, L, XL, XL Tall, 2XL, 2XL Tall, 3XL. (Add $3.00 for Talls or 3XL)

dscf2931

We field tested this sweater during our 2009 rifle season and found it to be a heavier knit than the older Winona style sweaters.  The added thickness kept us warmer on stand and we found that it stretched to allow for more layers should the need arise.  As with the original, the acrylic knit is ultra quiet and the high collar eliminated the need for our regular StormKloth neck gaiters.  I like the full zip feature on this version of the classic should I need to regulate my body temperature during a hike.  Overall, I’d say that Legendary Whitetails has done us hunters a favor by bringing back this Retro Sweater.  Next stop on the field testing checklist for this sweater…….Ice Fishing!

Our Marks on the Retro Knit Sweater:

Fit:  4 out of 5: The fit is true to size around the shoulders but we felt the waist band could have gone down past our actual waists a little more.  We’d recommend ordering the XL tall size.

Quality and Comfort:  5 out of 5: As with the original, this sweater can take whatever you dish out. In fact, the more you wear it, the more comfortable it becomes!

Overall Value: 5 out of 5: We’re average hunters just like you and don’t want to waste our hard earned money on apparel or equipment that doesn’t work or isn’t top quality.  At $59.99, it’s hard to go wrong with this sweater and you won’t have to break the bank to give it a try.

Base Layer Choices
Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Base Layers for Hunters

Base Layer Pic

We’ve made mention of the importance of quality base layers in several of our reviews before but we’re going to take a more in-depth look at them here. During the 2009 Deer Season, we field tested 6 different manufacturers of base layers so that you can get a feel for what is available in performance and price. Base layers, as the term implies represent your first layer. The layer directly against your skin. We focus on three attributes of a good base layer: Comfort, moisture management and degree of insulation. There are times when the insulation component is not as important (early season) but the comfort and performance components show up on each and every hunt. Here’s what we thought of the base layers:

Medalist: We tested the Heavyweight ¼ Zip Microfleece shirt and pants. These base layers are geared for colder temps and worked excellent for sitting long periods in the treestand. Furthermore, the SilverMax construction of these garments aided in decreasing scent dispersion. By incorporating Silver into the clothing, agents like Bacteria, Ammonia and Denatured proteins are rendered inactive thereby cutting down on the amount of scent you are giving off. According to Medalist, the pure silver coating surrounding the clothing fibers provide the following: • Undetected Scent-Free Protection • Thermodynamic Body Temperature Regulation• Stay-dry Skinetics™ Moisture Transport System• No Activation, Easy Care• Anti-static, Noise-Free Movement• Permanent Protection for the Life of the Garment.
The Medalist base layers were very comfortable and had a degree of stretch to them. The shirt was great by itself on warmer days and excellent as a base layer on cold ones. Next to the skin the SilverMax material feels great, no scratch to it at all. These garments were true to size and the only glitch seemed to be a small degree of fading after washing. Retail value: ¼ Zip Shirt ($59.99) Pants ($49.99) www.medalist.com

First Lite:  All the First Lite apparel is made from Merino Wool and that had me a little skeptical about how the base layers would hold up after repeated washings. This stuff is absolutely fabulous! Not only did they stay true to their original size, the wool is not scatchy next to your skin. I literally wore this stuff in all phases of our season and felt it hard to beat in terms of an all around layering system. We tested the Chama shirt ($89.95) and Allegheny Pants ($69.95) and found them to be warm and comfortable. As you may be aware, wool has natural antimicrobial properties and is extremely breathable for that moisture management component. First Lite has found a way to add that “next to skin” component to the wool they use which completes the trifecta. Coupled with a very unique and effective ASAT (All-Season-All-Terrain) pattern, the First Lite apparel is becoming a very popular brand of base layer for the serious hunter.     www.firstlite.com

Arctic Shield and X-System: We tested the Pro Series Fleece Base Layer Top and Bottoms along with the Light Weight Polyester tops.   The X-System apparel also uses the power of Silver.  The Nano Silver technology of the Pro Series Base Layers keep your body free of scent dispersing bacteria while providing a degree of moisture management.  Similar to the Medalist products above, the X-System apparel had 4-way stretch fabric built into the garments.  We found this to be a nice feature enabling a great range of mobility in the apparel as well as a cooling factor in the areas under the arms and crotch.   Pro Series Retail for: $49.99 each and Lightweight Retail for: $23.99 www.arcoutdoors.com

Sitka Gear: Sitka came on the scene a few years back and has since made quite a splash in the hunting apparel market. They offer a variety of high quality apparel but it doesn’t come cheap! At over $500 for a jacket, we thought it best to test base layers that were at least in the same zip code as base layers from the other brands. That brings us to the Core Zip T ($89.00) and Core Bottom ($69.00). These two base layers were high on comfort and moisture management and low on insulation. The Core series is made of polyester and like Medalist, also incorporates silver into the fibers. This helps to eliminate odor causing bacteria and keeps you dry at the same time. Next to the skin, these feel great but you’ll want something over top of them when the Mercury drops. If you want to combine the performance aspect with warmth, try the Traverse T and Pants.
I personally thought the shoulders in the XXL Zip T were snug (I usually were a XL) so I’d suggest trying the shirt on before purchase.  www.sitkagear.com

Base Layer 2

Hot Chillys: We tried out two selections from Hot Chillys, a popular brand for the downhill ski crowd.  First was the Peach Skins made of lightweight polyester.  This 1/4 Zip shirt felt like silk against the skin and was perfect for the warmer part of early bow season.  We also stowed this away in our pack as a change of layers if we happened to get overheated on the way to the stand. The Peach Skins are treated with what Hot Chillys call “Bio Del Mar” antimicrobial treatment.  According to their website, Bio Del Mar is a “Non abrasive, soft feeling yarn with silver based antimicrobial properties”.  We’re starting to understand the importance of Silver more and more!

Second were the 8 0z. Pepper Skins that had more of a woolen feel (made of 100% denier polyester) but were still very lightweight.  These seemed better for the colder days but also seemed to run a tad small.  Our advice with these is to order one size larger than you normally would.  Peach Skins Retail for: $48.00 1/4 Zip Shirt and $38.00 pants.   Pepper Skins Retail for: $25.00 Shirt and/or Pants. www.hotchillys.com

Smartwool: We tested the Midweight Zip T and for being 100 % Merino Wool, this stuff felt great next to the skin. The Smartwool products feature all of the characteristics that have made wool a good choice for hunters for ages (Naturally antimicrobial with absorption and evaporation properties) We would order one one size larger however because the Zip T seemed to run a tad small. Retails for: $85 www.smartwool.com

As you can see from this review, the incorporation of Silver is becoming a staple in the base layer industry and depending on your activity, there is a base layer out there to keep you warm, dry and void of stink!  Check these companies out when considering base layers.

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